"It will be as lengthy of a debate over in the Senate, as well, I would expect," Hughes said.
As the legislative session nears its halfway point, more education bills are coming out of committees to see debate on the chamber floors. Among the issues under consideration are potential changes to the tax code, parental rights, per-pupil funding and an initiative to drastically increase the number of learning devices in Utah schools.
On Thursday, the Public Education Appropriations Committee finalized its list of funding priorities. Included in those recommendations were $61 million for enrollment growth and a 2.5 percent increase in the weighted pupil unit, which is used in the calculation of per-pupil funding.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said that in regards to public schools, it is still early in the session with a long way to go.
"My experience has been that education is the first place we fund and the last place we cut, but there’s still a lot of discussion to go on with regard to education," he said.
Lawmakers are also considering the specifics of a proposal by House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, which was announced during the session and would dramatically increase the number of learning devices in Utah's schools. The Public Education Appropriations Committee prioritized $50 million in one-time funding and $50 million in ongoing funding for the initiative, which is expected to be rolled out over the space of several years.
Two bills to generate revenue for schools by reforming the tax code are also under consideration in the senate. SB118, sponsored by Sen. Patricia Jones, D-Salt Lake City, would limit the number of personal income tax exemptions a family can claim to two. SB111, sponsored by Osmond, would freeze the basic property tax rate, which currently adjusts down to remain revenue neutral as property values increase.
Both bills have received committee approval but have yet to be debated on the Senate floor.
Contributing: Madeleine Brown
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